In a book that I read titled Resisting Gossip, the author defined sinful gossip as “bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.” Though the sin of gossip seems pretty trivial, it is actually a sin that is both infectious and poisonous. It spiritually harms the gossiper, the one being gossiped to, and the one being gossiped about. This particular sin has the capability of ruining individual friendships as well as entire communities. It can separate close friends and it can also split churches in two. In all honesty, gossip is much like a small fire. Though it is small in its beginnings, it has the ability to set a whole forest ablaze.
Gossip is like Junk Food
Though gossip is both infectious and poisonous, we often find our sinful hearts eager to partake in this particular sin. Proverbs teaches us that our hearts are eager to participate in the sin of gossip because “the words of gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts” (18:8; 26:22). Choice morsels are like junk food – tidbits of unhealthy food that are easy to consume because they are so incredibly delicious.
So the words of gossip are like that bag of potato chips in our pantry, or that box of Sour Patch kids on our coffee table. We know that both potato chips and Sour Patch kids are incredibly bad for us. Whenever our eyes see them, however, it is not long before our palate begins to savor them. Self control and discipline become things of the past. And before long, our inmost parts feel the terrible consequences of such indulgence! And this is exactly how gossip is. Even though we know gossip is wicked and evil, our hearts love gossip. Gossip is delightful to the ears, rousing to the brain, and gratifying to the sinful flesh.
Who’s Guilty of Gossip?
First, the gossiper is guilty. This is clear throughout both the Old and the New Testament. The book of Proverbs constantly speaks of the evil of gossip (Prov. 11:13; 18:8; 20:19; 26:22). Throughout the Old Testament, gossip and slander are often used interchangeably. Within the New Testament, gossip is always listed within the sin lists (Ro. 1:28-32; 2 Cor. 12:20). And throughout these sin lists, gossip is always listed right next to slander. As you can see, the same sinful heart that leads to slander is the same evil heart that leads to gossip.
And secondly, the one gossiped to is guilty. Proverbs says, “Wrong doers eagerly listen to gossip; liars pay close attention to slander” (17:4). Honestly, if wrong doers weren’t so eager to listen to gossip, then people wouldn’t gossip! In light of this, Spurgeon said, “In slander as well as robbery, the receiver is as bad as the thief. If there were not gratified hearers of ill reports, there would be an end of the trade of spreading them.” Thus, it is clear that those listening to gossip are in sin.
You May Be Gossiping If . . . .
First, you are gossiping if you are sharing inaccurate information about somebody else. So, if you are unknowingly sharing lies about somebody else then it is gossip. This means that you can genuinely believe that what you are saying is true. However, if what you are saying isn’t actually true, then you are still guilty of gossip. And if you are knowingly sharing lies about somebody else then it is slander!
Secondly, you are gossiping if you are sharing bad news about somebody else. This is when you are actually telling other people truthful things about another person that should not be told. So you are not spreading lies, but are speaking about truths that should only be known within a small inner circle of people. For example, a friend tells you that they committed sexual immorality with their fiancé. That information is to stay between the two of you. However, you, being eager to tell others, tell somebody else about it. This is gossip. And as the book of Proverbs says, “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” (11:13).
Thirdly, you are gossiping if you are sharing bad news for somebody else. This is when you share bad news that should exclusively be for another person. For example, you overhear that Jane is going to divorce her husband because he doesn’t make her happy anymore. The husband has no idea that his wife is going to divorce him. And even though he does not know, you begin to tell other people. Before long, he is the only one that does not know about this bad news that should have been exclusively for him. This, too, is gossip.
Different Types of Gossipers
“A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends” (Pr. 16:28).
The Hebrew word translated as gossip hear literally means a “grumbler or complainer.” These people gossip by grumbling. They are usually upset by something that somebody else said or did, so they seek to get other people just as upset at that person as they are. They usually cover up this type of gossip by saying, “I just need to vent,” or “I just need to get this off my chest.” Then they relentlessly spew out things about a certain person in such a way that other people will dislike them as much as they dislike them! This is the goal of the grumbler.
And make no mistake, this type of gossip has a profound impact on how others view the person they are gossiping about. Regarding this Bridges said, “The thought indulged only for a moment brings suspicion, distrust, coldness; and often it ends in the separation of chief friends.” The people we gossip to may never view the person we gossip about in a favorable manner ever again. That is a scary thought. Personally, I think that this is the type of gossip that we, as Christians, struggle with most.
“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret” (Pr. 11:13).
“A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much” (Pr. 20:19).
The Hebrew word translated as gossip here literally means “an informer or peddler of secrets.” These people are spies. They listen to each conversation, gather in a great deal of information, and then use this information to their own advantage. This is what spies do, right?
Spies accumulate vast amounts of information on both friends and foes because they know that information is power. At some point, they know that they can wield the information they have accumulated to their own advantage. This is how these gossipers are. For them, knowledge is power. They gather in as much information about people as possible so that they can share this information to whomever they want whenever they want to their own selfish advantage.
This type of gossiper is the one we usually think about when we think about gossip. This is the person that desires revenge. In their desire for revenge they begin to expose falsehoods and shameful truths about a person. They spitefully do this in order to damage the other person’s reputation as much as possible.
If you know what a chameleon is then you know where this is going. A chameleon is a lizard that changes colors based on its environment. Therefore, a gossiper who is a chameleon is a gossiper that gets in on gossiping about a particular person simply because other people are doing it. In fear of losing people’s approval, the chameleon jumps in with a little gossip to win people’s favor. It is important to note that the chameleon can also be identified as an individual that is being entertained or laughing at certain gossip. So, they may not verbally say anything about a person, but they are still sinfully partaking in what is being said.
“But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not” (1 Timothy 5:11-13).
The busybody is the person that does not have any affairs of their own, so they get involved in the affairs of others. Rather than doing something that is profitable and useful, they simply make gossiping about other people their form of entertainment.
To Be Continued!
This blog was meant to make us aware of the sin of gossip. In my next blog I will address how we can put gossip to death. My hope is that these two blogs will aid us in a living in a manner worthy of the gospel. Click here to read the next blog!